Jeffrey Wasserstrom: Exploring Peter Hessler's China From the Ground Uptags: Jeffrey Wasserstrom, China, book reviews, The Atlantic, Peter Hessler
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a professor of Chinese history at UC Irvine, is the author of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know and co-editor of Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land.
Like other Americans, I draw a sharp line, linguistically and symbolically, between mice and rats. But one thing I learned during my first trip to China a quarter of a century ago was that the distinction between these two kinds of rodents, both typically called laoshu in Chinese, is fuzzier there. When posters went up in Shanghai to accompany a campaign to purge that metropolis of vermin, they showed Mickey Mouse with a spike through his heart. These images shocked me but local residents seemed to find them unremarkable.
Those Mickey-the-Rat posters came to mind for two reasons while reading New Yorker staff writer Peter Hessler's Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, a wonderful collection of previously published pieces, which are issued here in revised and in some cases updated form, along with an engaging set of introductory comments by the prize-winning author. One reason I thought of Mickey Mouse -- Mi Laoshu in Chinese -- is that the book continually showcases Hessler's gift for telling tales of cultural difference and mutual misunderstanding in a way that is both humorous and deeply empathetic. In his hands, the story of the posters would be presented in a way that left readers unsure at the end as to whether they should find it more curious that such images appeared in China or that they would never show up in an American city....
comments powered by Disqus
- King Tutankhamun did not die in chariot crash, virtual autopsy reveals
- Easter Island’s ancient inhabitants weren’t so isolated after all
- Turin shroud was made for medieval Easter ritual, historian says
- Japanese Village Grappling With Wartime Sins Comes Under Attack
- Gestapo Imposter Tricked Nazi Sympathizers in WWII
- Turning West, Historians Take a Wider View of Early America
- History to Launch Online Course for College Credit
- 33.3 million viewers tuned in for 'The Roosevelts' documentary series
- Eric Foner debunks Underground Railroad myth
- Juan Cole claims the Arab Spring is still promising. Doubters say he’s naive.